EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Of the 15 plays the Buffalo Bills used to cover 80 yards and score their final touchdown in a 17-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, there's unequivocally one the Vikings wish they could have back.
"Fourth-and-20," safety Harrison Smith said. "Game over."
The play, in which Bills quarterback Kyle Orton found tight end Scott Chandler on a 24-yard strike just behind linebacker Chad Greenway, was still on players' minds in the postmortem analysis of the game. The Bills stressed the Vikings' defense with quick snaps a few times on Sunday, and while the Bills went into a no-huddle offense for the play, which came after Tom Johnson's third-down sack, Greenway was communicating a coverage adjustment to cornerback Captain Munnerlyn when the ball was snapped, putting the linebacker a half-step behind in his coverage drop.
"You look back -- I've watched the tape a couple times now -- and you wish you could change something, but it's hard to stop the clock when a team's driving on you in (a) two-minute (drill)," Greenway said. "A timeout, that's not my decision. All I remember is looking back and seeing that Captain was real deep, from trying to get back from the last snap, and we weren't lined up. I was trying to give him the call, and the ball was on top of us. I got to a good spot, but you've got to make the play in that situation. My hand was right in the pocket. The ball just didn't come out.
Asked if he would have had a better chance to knock the ball down if he hadn't been working on coverage adjustments with his head turned when the ball was snapped, Greenway said, "I wouldn't have been in that position, but that's on me. I can't blame anybody else for that."
Zimmer said in hindsight, he should have called timeout before the play to settle the team down, adding he didn't think players knew exactly how far they had to drop in coverage on fourth down.
"The clock was running, so that's in our favor," Zimmer said. "The chances of them hitting a fourth-and-20, the clock's running, the game's on the line -- you've got a lot of things in your favor at that point in time. Right, wrong or indifferent, I've always worked for a lot of guys who don't like calling timeouts on defense, because they don't like wasting them, so that is a little bit of my mentality, too. Probably, in that situation, the hectic (nature) of everything that's going on, I probably should have used it."
The Bills have the fourth-fastest rate of play of any team so far this week, according to ESPN Stats & Information, averaging a snap once every 35.5 seconds of real time on Sunday. The Bills sped up their offense at a few different points, but a two-minute drill will obviously increase their pace, and it was in that situation where things got hectic for the Vikings.
"When you go fast, and it's one of those situations, (you're thinking), 'What's the down and distance? How many timeouts are left?'" Smith said. "When it's a two-minute, you're thinking, 'Keep them in bounds, clock running.' But when it's fourth down, it doesn't matter what the clock's doing. If you stop them, the game's over. There's a lot to process there, when they go no-huddle, kind of quick. I think that's why they do that."